By Jim Ellis
Oct. 17, 2016 — The presidential map has swung significantly toward Hillary Clinton in the past week, which is of little surprise considering the revelations surrounding Donald Trump. If the election were today, our count projects Clinton to receive 338 electoral votes as compared to only 200 for Trump.
As has been the case since the beginning of this campaign, in order to win the national election Trump must carry the states of Florida, Ohio and North Carolina in order to develop a base that melds into a winning coalition. Before the videotape flap, Trump held the advantage in his three staple states. This week, however, he has fallen behind in each place, albeit by small, single-digit margins.
While it is mandatory for Trump to carry Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, Clinton can win the national election without any of the three. But, should Trump rebound fully in the aforementioned, he is still not done. In addition to carrying the 23 states that have voted Republican in every presidential election in this century – all are unanimous with the one exception of Indiana, which voted for President Obama in 2008 by one percentage point — Trump needs an additional 17 electoral votes in order to actually win the election.
The most likely additional pair of states that could go his way features Iowa, where he still leads, and Nevada. Similar to his standing before Saturday in Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina, he is now falling behind in the Silver State after leading, but even converting all of these states would leave him one short.
Unfortunately for Trump, this latter scenario appears to be his best possible finish. It does not appear feasible that any additional state will swing his way meaning that his best-case finish is to lose a close election.
On the other hand, surprising polling is coming from various Senate states. Despite last Saturday’s leak of the now famous Trump sexual oriented videotape, Republican contenders in Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, Pennsylvania and North Carolina have actually increased their level of support in the days surrounding the presidential campaign setback.
As we have stated several times during the past week, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has apparently propelled himself back into contention against ex-Sen. Russ Feingold (D) after both parties were leaving him for the political junk heap. He now has a fighting chance to survive according to multiple late data sources.
Turning to Indiana, which appeared to be trending in former Sen. Evan Bayh’s (D) direction, now seems to be falling into toss-up range. Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington) has scored major points against Bayh calling into question is lobbying activities, Indiana residence, and commitment to representing the state. The Hoosier State’s most recent poll shows the once robust Bayh falling into a virtual tie. WTHR-TV/Howey Politics (Oct. 3-5; 600 likely Indiana voters) finds the two separated only by a 42-41 percent count.
It looked like former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge (D) had a chance to make some political inroads against veteran Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), but this is no longer the case. Grassley is consistently gaining strength and currently scoring his best polling numbers of the election cycle. The new Des Moines Register/Selzer & Company survey (Oct. 3-6; 642 likely Iowa voters) finds the senator’s advantage climbing to 53-36 percent.
The Pennsylvania race had been trending toward Democrat Katie McGinty, and for the past several weeks she consistently recorded small leads against first-term Sen. Pat Toomey (R). The Bloomberg Politics poll (Oct. 7-11; 806 likely Pennsylvania voters) finds McGinty’s now leading only 47-45 percent, but that is a better showing than the Susquehanna Research data (Oct. 4-9; 764 likely Pennsylvania voters). This poll detects her dropping behind the senator, 38-42 percent.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) has again pulled in front of former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D) according to three different surveys. All were conducted during the Oct. 10-12 period and each, from the Emerson College Polling Society, Suffolk University, and NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist, all yield small Burr leads of between just over zero and four percentage points.
It is quite possible that while voters are gravitating, and perhaps reluctantly, toward Clinton in the presidential contest, they maybe uncomfortable with investing full political power with her. Therefore, balancing their ticket by voting Republican for Senate and House could serve as a check on what would be a potentially over-bearing Democratic Clinton Executive Branch.
It remains to be seen whether the current unstable polling patterns found when comparing the presidential contest to key senatorial campaigns actually hold, or if the current numbers prove to be anomalies.